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Full text of "My Country And My People"

98       MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

its energy and that perhaps, after millions of years, life is sure
to become extinct on this planet. "Do you not realize, there-
fore," asked the minister, "that after all, the question of
immortality is important?" I told him frankly I was unper-
turbed. If human life has yet half a million years, that is
enough for all practical purposes, and the rest is unnecessary
metaphysical worry. That anybody's soul should want to live
for more than half a million years and not be perfectly content
is a kind of preposterousness that an Oriental mind cannot
understand. The Presbyterian minister's worry is as charac-
teristically Teutonic as my unconcern is characteristically
Chinese. The Chinese, therefore, make rather poor Christian
converts, and if they are to be converted they should all
become Quakers, for that is the only sort of Christianity that
the Chinese can understand. Christianity as a way of life
can impress the Chinese, but Christian creeds and dogmas will
be crushed, not by a superior Confucian logic but by ordinary
Confucian common sense. Buddhism itself, when absorbed by
the educated Chinese, became nothing but a system of mental
hygiene, which is the essence of Sung philosophy.

For a certain. hard-headedness characterizes the Chinese
ideal of life. There may be imagination in Chinese paintings
and poetry, but there is no imagination in Chinese ethics.
Even in painting and poetry there is a sheer, whole-hearted,
instinctive delight in commonplace life, and imagination is
used to throw a veil of charm and beauty over this earthly life,
rather than to escape from it. There is no doubt that the
Chinese are in love with life, in love with this earth, and will
not forsake it for an invisible heaven. They are in love with
life, which is so sad and yet so beautiful, and in which moments
of happiness are so precious because they are so transient. They
are in love with life, with its kings and beggars, robbers and
monks, funerals and weddings and childbirths and sicknesses
and glowing sunsets and rainy nights and feasting days and
wine-shop fracas.

It is these details of life upon which the Chinese novelists
fondly and untiringly dwell, details which are so real and
human and significant because we humans are affected by
them. Was it a sultry afternoon when the whole household